Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Skilcraft ChemLab 1100
We opened our first chemistry set last weekend. I don't how long we've owned this thing, or even where we got it (probably the grandparents). But I knew we hadn't had much luck with inexpensive science apparatus before (the Toys R Us microscope and telescope, for instance) and besides ... it looked intimidating.
Now that I'm getting used to the idea of working with chemicals, however -- and especially because The Joy of Chemistry suggested raiding your kids' chemistry sets for hard-to-find ingredients -- I decided to set aside an afternoon last weekend and give it a try.
Having done a fair bit of research into the pitiful state of chemistry sets today (more on that in future posts), I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, the punch-out plastic scale looks useless, there's no key telling you what some of other items are supposed to be, and the instruction booklet has been reprinted so many times it's barely legible. But sure enough, the kit contained at least one chemical I've been searching for (sodium carbonate, sometimes used in place of lye to make pretzels crispy), and a few others that look handy. The booklet, if it can be trusted, contains some neat-sounding experiments. And I thought it couldn't hurt to try out the equipment as the book suggested, practicing placing drops of uniform size on a plastic-covered sheet of graph paper with the enclosed disposible pipettes. (No glassware, of course; not only because of the danger to kids, but probably also because anti-meth laws have made test tubes and Erlenmeyer flasks illegal.)
Having looked it over, I told the kids they could use the chemistry set on their own, with my supervision. Not today of course. But soon.
UPDATE: If you're looking for directions for the Skilcraft ChemLab 1100, contact Nancy Kopec at Chartpak, the company which manufactures the kits. Her email is: firstname.lastname@example.org.